Tag Archives: EI


Leadership Minute: managing emotional triggers in stressful situations

Checkout the whole library of Leadership Minute videos here.

Leadership Minute: Healthy Conflict

Leadership Minute: Checking out assumptions

Leadership Minute: I’d rather be happy than right.

From Manager to Leadership: building your Leadership Roadmap

Here’s a question I get asked fairly often: how can I move from being a manager to truly becoming a leader? It turns out that the answer is “it’s a journey; one you can start right now.”

The journey becomes more focused as a result of having a roadmap to follow to help you understand if you’re on track and making progress. The roadmap starts with a destination in mind and that destination is not obvious “title-based approach.”

Here’s a step by step process for helping you create your own leadership roadmap:

Step 1 – One perspective on the difference between managers and leaders is that managers manage tasks and projects while leaders inspire, guide, mentor, and coach their teams. The reality is the key difference is actually in the eyes of the followers. It turns out the perception of followers plays a big role in developing as a leader: if followers aren’t willing to be led then you will have no one to lead. This understanding is the first step.

Step 2 – Once you understand the role perception management plays in leadership it’s time to consider what leadership outcome you are striving to achieve. Your Leadership Vision is the “what and where” of your leadership journey: where do you want to end up and what will you do when you get there? As Cheshire Cat said to Alice, “if you don’t know where you’re going then any road will take you there!” This vision can be a role or position within a company or organization or it can be what you will be able to accomplish as a result of your leadership journey.

Step 3 – Now that you have your Vision, your what and where, it’s time to consider the how: your Leadership Core Purpose. Your core purpose is the underlying values, attitudes, and beliefs that drive your behaviours and actions towards my leadership vision. One question to help you determine is, “if we asked your followers how they would describe your strengths as a leader, what would they say?”

Step 4 – Now that you are clear on your destination and know how you are going to get there we need to understand where you are today. Draw a line down the center of a page and on the left side write a list of your leadership strengths both behavioural and skill/role related. On the right side of the page write a list of the areas you need to get stronger at that are consistent with your vision and core purpose.

Step 5 – Next to each area that requires improvement and each strength that needs to be maximized write a direction action you can take is year to move your closer towards your leadership vision. These actions can vary from reading, to taking courses, attending webinars, joining peer-groups, getting coaching, finding a mentor, finding opportunities to take on leadership roles outside of work (in my experience chairing a volunteer board is an amazing way to grow your leadership abilities), etc.

Step 6 – Now that you have actions setup it’s time to put some accountability into place. Create due dates and first steps for each of the actions. Then select an Accountability Buddy who can support you on your Leadership Roadmap, hold you accountable, and provide feedback and shared experiences when you feel stuck or at a crossroads.

Step 7 – Each quarter setup a review, evaluate, and revise session for yourself to see what progress you’ve made, what’s working, what’s not working, what’s missing, and what you can celebrate.

After reading this you may be thinking that the journey of a leader is more than an outer, visible journey, it’s a blend of the outer and an inner journey. If you have read the autobiographies of great leaders you already know how much of their focus is becoming a great leader was on self-reflection and discovery. This is the inner journey that is woven like a ribbon through the Leadership Roadmap. Think of it as your own personal iceberg: so much of the real weight is hidden below the surface and forms the true stability and power behind the iceberg.

I’m interested to hear about your personal journey as a leader. Please add a comment to this blog post so we turn this monologue into a dialogue.

How can I make people care?

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I received an email today from a CEO the other day asking me, “Do you have any good references / literature on ‘how to make people care’? I’m having some employee challenges.”

I thought I would share my response with you:

“Three ways:

1) hire people who care (it’s an attitudinal thing, not a training thing)
2) show a direct connection between success for them and why they should care
3) lobotomy – expensive and illegal but can dramatically shift innate personality traits. For examples of when this doesn’t work I suggest renting Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (and yes, I know, that was a potion, not a lobotomy – you get the idea).

Motivation is not something people need to receive. It’s finding ways to remove the things that demotivate people that keeps them motivated (if you hire self-starters).”


The most straightforward piece I’ve read on candor comes from Jack Welch’s book, Winning. In Chapter Two, he refers to candor as, “the biggest dirty little secret in business,” but more specifically as people not expressing themselves in a straightforward way and withholding their comments and criticism; usually in an effort to avoid conflict.

Welch summarizes the positive effects of candor on an organization as:

  1. Create better outcomes: get more people in the conversation which leads to more minds and more ideas.
  2. Speed things up using the process: surface, debate, improve, decide.
  3. Cut costs: replace boring meetings, pointless updates, and presentations with real conversations about the core issues.

Why aren’t we candid: we’re taught not to be at a young age. Sensitive or awkward issues are softened or avoided. Our parents scolded us for pointing out something that we thought was obvious but “wasn’t a nice thing to point out.” But the main reason we’re not candid is simple, it’s easier not to be.

So how do we reverse the trend and our learned childhood behaviours to create candor in our companies? Reward the behaviours you’d like to see more of and lead by example, no matter where you are in the hierarchy (although it is easier the higher up you are).

What steps do you take within your organization to promote and reward candor?

Our leadership development philosophy

Over the past year I’m consistently asked to answer the question, “what is your overall leadership development philosophy?” I thought it would be helpful to put pen to paper and blog my answer. Our experience over the past 10 years working with thousands of senior leaders in medium to large organizations has led to some core tenets that consistently hold true. Over the past year I’ve written several posts that together sum up our leadership development philosophy. I’ve consolidated those here and added a few thoughts to round things off:

  1. Why most Leadership Development initiatives fail
  2. Interactive Business Learning Experiences™:
  3. Theory versus reality: many “leadership development consultants” have academic backgrounds but little to no practical experience in the trenches working at an executive level. Their approach is based on case studies and teaching theories. The challenge with this is the Grand Canyon sized gap that exists between theory and application. Having leaders who can “talk” about leadership but cannot clearly demonstrate in a tangible way (and by tangible I mean a way in which others can easily understand what they are doing and learn for the approach), leads to great theorists who talk the talk but can’t walk the walk.
  4. Three Core Areas of Leadership: The are actually three core areas of leadership that leaders need to become students of: leading self, leading other, leading organization. Most people only consider the second one, leading other, when considering how they can develop their core leadership skills.
  5. Authentic Leadership: Bill George in his talk at Google describes Authentic Leadership in a way that resonates with what our experience at ViRTUS.  Here are the five learnings from his hour long talk: leadership is about internal development and introspection (self-awareness) not how you create a perception for the public, know your values and what’s really important to you, it’s the sweet spot at the intersection of your greatest strengths and your greatest motivation, find a support team and mentors who you can be totally honest with and who can be totally honest with you, lead an integrated life by being the same person in all areas of my life (authenticity).
  6. Emotional Intelligence: The founding father of Emotional Intelligence (EI or EQ) in the workplace is Daniel Goleman. He developed the four main EI constructs as: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness (sometimes referred to as awareness of others), and relationship management. Our experience has shown us that by weaving these tenets into the background of the competencies we help leaders develop by showing them practical tools and techniques using everyday language, leaders can be coached much more rapidly into demonstrating changes in behaviour.
  7. Andragogy vs Pedagogy – the old school style of having a teacher stand at the front of the room and lecture to the students about a theory has been proven not only to be inefficient in helping adults learn, it’s also incredibly boring for the learner. The new style is collaborative, engaging, interactive, focused on opportunities and challenges they’re actually facing, accountability based (instead of memorizing), and open to failing as a key part of the learning process.
  8. Adult Experiential Learning Cycle
  9. Entrenching Learning
  10. Five Stages of Learning: There are five stages of learning that we grow through when absorbing a new concept literally from apathy to “this is just the way I do it”:  Unconscious incompetence – I don’t know what I don’t know, Conscious Incompetence – I know what I don’t know, Conscious Competence – I know what I know, Unconscious Competence – I don’t know what I know, Reflective or Enlightened Competence – I am aware that I don’t know what I know but I can shift back into conscious competence to teach someone else.
  11. How do you know it’s working?: The reality of transforming a business is fairly straightforward: if you can’t change a behaviour or a system within the business then everything stays the same. The easiest way to measure changes in behaviour is to witness them using the ViRTUS Video Test.

As always I welcome your comments, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m interested to hear what your personal experience has been in helping develop leaders within your organization.

PS Why post this on my blog where my competitors can see it? It was an easy decision. Even though people can cut and paste the words, they can’t match the results we provide and at the end of the day, that’s what matters.

Business in Vancouver: Boardroom Strategy (Aug 4-10th)


Boardroom Strategy: Mike Desjardins

Friday, 07 August 2009

Ten tips for leading businesses in turbulent times

There’s no denying these are turbulent times. But there are things that you can do to lead your team and your company to success against the odds.

Here are the top 10 things that you can start doing today to adapt past approaches and lead through to success.

Simplify the strategic message. The easier your strategy is to understand and communicate, the greater the likelihood that it will be executed successfully. The idea is to have people understand what the top three to five goals are for the year. Stephen Covey took this idea one step further in his book The Eighth Habit, in which he describes the concept of a “Wildly Important Goal” – the most important goal for the company this year, which everyone in the company must be able to understand, feel compelled by and repeat. Simplify to make the message easy to spread.

Use a reverse one-, three-, five-year approach. Short-term thinking can drive organizations to make decisions that are not in the best interest of stakeholders long term. This situation is exacerbated in turbulent times. View decisions from three unique perspectives: one, three, five years in the future. Ask your (future) self what decisions you wish you would have made. What do you regret? What advice do you have for yourself?
Drive revenue, reduce costs and monitor cash flow tightly. Drive revenue by getting in front of the market while your competitors are inwardly focused. Reduce costs by looking at each major expenditure in its own light, not based on a sweeping percentage. Educate your top people on how to monitor cash flow. Cash is like oxygen to a business; without it, it’s game over. It astounds me how many executives are able to rise through to the senior ranks without understanding cash flow.

Stand out while everyone else is standing down. One thing that you can count on in turbulent times is a decline in ad sales.

Not only does this mean less clutter and a higher probability of reaching your audience, but when ad sales go down marketing mediums get hungry and drop prices. Lock in long-term contracts now at the lower rates.

“Confront the brutal facts but move forward with healthy optimism anyway.” In Good to Great, Jim Collins writes about being realistic about where you’re at, while at the same time putting together a positive plan to move forward.

Think of it as realistic optimism with three steps:

•be clear about what the situation is today – pretending things are better than they are is ludicrous;

•explain what the changing conditions mean for the organization or for your division; and

•share what the strategy is to move the company forward in the right direction and what each person can do to contribute to the plan’s success.

Operate based on a one-page strategic plan. Distil your strategic plan into one page that encompasses values, goals, relevant financial data, key performance indicators and actions for three to five years, one year and the next quarter.

This is far easier for people to digest than a 50-page diatribe. (For a sample format visit my blog at http://www.mikedesjardins.com).

Keep your strategic plan dynamic. The most successful companies we work with review, evaluate and revise their strategic plans each quarter.

Adapting your strategic plan to meet changes in the market, industry or company creates a document from which decisions can be made rather than another dusty binder for your shelf.

Be candid and speak authentically. Whether things are good or bad, the rumour mill has a way of spinning them into whatever is easy to pass on. By focusing on the candid facts and how people are being affected by what’s happening, a sense of community and camaraderie can be built around finding a solution.

Cut fast and cut early: Multistage layoffs are far more damaging to corporate culture than one large downsizing. The death of a thousand cuts leaves people constantly realigning priorities each time there’s a layoff and wondering if they’re next. Lead people back to engagement and productivity by listening to what they’re experiencing and helping them regain focus.

Start doing, stop doing, keep doing. When fear sets into an organization it can lead people to the point of inaction or what we call “analysis paralysis.” Have people ask and answer three simple questions: What should I start doing? Stop doing? Keep doing?

If this is a topic that you are interested to know more about, visit this link for a recorded webinar that goes into more detail and examples: www.virtusinc.com/webinars. •

Mike Desjardins is the Driver (CEO) at ViRTUS, an organizational development consulting firm with expertise in strategic planning and implementation, leadership development, change management and succession planning for medium to large organizations.

This article from Business in Vancouver August 4-10, 2009; issue 1032

Why most leadership development initiatives fail.

Over the past ten years we’ve had the opportunity to work with well 1,000+ executives and CEOs, focused on helping them becoming better leaders, strategists, and visionaries. In that time I’ve seen the aftermath of many failed leadership development initiatives, that we’ve been called in to fix or replace, and they seem to carry a number of similarities. If you’re a CEO, VP HR, or Director of Leadership Development, I think you’ll find this helpful.  Here is a list of the reasons that most leadership development (LD) initiatives fail:

  1. They ignore reality. Good, bad, or ugly, there is a style of leadership that is accepted in your company right now. It’s been woven in to the fabric of the organization until it became the unwritten rule of “how you lead here.” Ignoring the fact that most people don’t look down the organization for tips on leadership they look up, and hoping that by training the “up and comers” below the exec team to behave differently than the exec team does simply doesn’t work. People turn off the volume and watch the video: how are leaders acting in this company so I know how to act like them so one day I can become an exec too. We call it the Video Test. If the senior team doesn’t understand, promote, and clearly demonstrate the behaviours that you are hoping to teach your up and coming high potentials (hi-po’s) then it’s really just paying lip service to leadership.
  2. There’s no connection to the business. Teaching leaders how to lead without showing them the direct connection to the actual situations and circumstances that they are going to run into in your business is leaving out a very crucial step. Making the connection from behaviour to situation to outcome to success based on actual circumstances that occur today in the business or occur frequently in their day-to-day roles is one of the most effective ways to ingrain an approach.
  3. We’ll do it in-house “through HR.” Most HR departments are not equipped to handle facilitation of leadership development programs in-house. It’s not their expertise, they are usually understaffed, and this is the core capability of the company. The most effective way (yes, I know, I’m biased, tough – it’s true), to implement a proper program is to work with an external leadership development partner who is willing to take the time and energy to understand what success looks like for you and the business, and design something that fits your situation (run away fast if they have the solution already built – your business is unique, you deserve a unique solution).
  4. It’s event driven. Holding an annual leadership retreat or semi-annual “learning event” means that for about one month after the event you’ll see some faint signs (usually in the form of terminology from the event) leaking out. After that it’s back to business as usual. The only way adults can actually their behaviour is to: see a model of what world-class behaviour in this area looks like, immerse themselves in learning in a practical way how to change their behaviour, and have the opportunity to revisit the learning on a frequent basis.
  5. Stick it in the LMS (Learning Management System). Right and magically everyone will find it since they spent the majority of their day surfing your corporate intranet looking for learning opportunities (is the sarcasm too light?). Leadership development is something that people need to be invited to participate in in a tangile way. Whether it’s live, on a webinar, a coaching call, whatever, the point is you engage them, not the other way around.
  6. They used an elementary school approach. Remember when you were in elementary school and your teacher was the expert and she told you how to do stuff that you weren’t sure you’d ever use again and that’s how you learned.  Well that’s called pedagogy. There are some things missing from that experience for adults: no control over the learning, no feedback to the person helping me learn, no connection to my reality, and no practical application right now. Adults require interactive, experiential learning where the “teacher” is really facilitating the learning process by bringing forward new concepts in a way that allows the learners to try them out.

If you’re not sure where to get started but you know you need to do something about developing stronger culture of leadership in your business here’s the best ways to begin:

  1. Write a list of all of the leadership behaviours that you don’t like that are going on in your company today.
  2. Take that list and write what the opposite, positive behaviour would look like.
  3. Think one year down the road and ask yourself this question, “what would substantial progress look like for us?”
  4. Interview your executive team and ask them one question, “what are the core leadership abilities that we need to foster in this organization to help us compete in the business over the next 1-5 years?”